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THE ROYAL RAM
NCE upon a time there lived a king, who had three beautiful daughters, the youngest of whom, named Miranda, was the most amiable, and the favourite of her father. The king being a very superstitious person, and one who had great faith in dreams, desired his daughters one evening to tell him what they had dreamed on the preceding night. The eldest said that she had dreamed that he gave her a gown, the gold and jewels of which were brighter than the sun; the second said she dreamed he had bought her a golden spinning-wheel and distaff, for her to spin herself some linen; and the youngest said her dream was, that he had given her second sister in marriage, and on the wedding-day had held a golden basin, and said, ‘Come, Miranda, come and wash.’ The king was so much disturbed by this last dream, that he went immediately and threw himself on his bed, tormented with the thought that it foreboded the loss of his crown. Nay, he wrought himself up to such a pitch with this suspicion, that cruelty took the place of affection, and he determined to have his once darling daughter despatched out of the way. For this purpose he commanded the captain of his guards to carry her into the forest, and kill her; and, that he might be sure of its being done, he ordered the officer to bring her heart and tongue to the palace, threatening him with the most cruel death in case of disobedience to this injunction. The captain, with much sorrow, went at an early hour to the princess’s apartment, telling her the king had sent him for her. She arose immediately and followed him, accompanied by a little Moor, called Patypata, who held up her train; also by a young ape, named Grabugeon, and a little dog called Tintin, which ran by her side.
Not finding the king in the garden, where the captain said he was taking the fresh air, he pretended he had gone into the forest, and said they must follow him thither. But as they were passing on, and the sun arose, the princess observed that her conductor was weeping, and with the utmost sweetness asked him the cause of his being so afflicted. ‘Alas, madam!’ he exclaimed, ‘how can I be otherwise? The king has ordered me to kill you, and to carry him your heart and tongue, upon pain of being put to a cruel death myself.’ The innocent princess turned pale at this sad intelligence, and said, fixing her eyes on the captain, ‘Are you hard-hearted enough to kill me, who never did you an injury in my life, but always spoke to the king in your favour?’ — ‘Fear not, fair princess,’ rejoined the officer; ‘I will sooner suffer the death I am threatened with, than be guilty of so barbarous an action. But cannot we find out some way to persuade the king you are dead?’ — ‘What way can we find out,’ inquired Miranda, ‘since he will not be satisfied unless he sees my tongue and heart?’ At these words the little Moor, who was affectionately attached to the princess, came and threw herself at Miranda’s feet, saying, ‘Dear madam, let me be the sacrifice; I shall be but too happy in dying to preserve so good a mistress.’ — ‘No,’ said the princess kissing her; ‘your life ought now to be as dear to me as my own.’ Her young ape, Grabugeon, next advanced, and said, ‘Truly, my princess, your slave Patypata may be more serviceable to you than I can; therefore I offer you my heart and tongue with cheerfulness.’ — ‘Oh! my pretty Grabugeon,’ returned Miranda, ‘I cannot bear the thought of taking your life away.’ Her faithful little dog Tintin then cried out, that he could not bear the thought of any one but himself dying for his beloved mistress. In short, after a long dispute between Patypata, Grabugeon, and Tintin, which of them should suffer death instead of the princess, Grabugeon nimbly climbed up to the top of a tree, and throwing himself down, broke his neck. The captain of the guard, with much persuasion, got leave of the princess to cut out his tongue; but it proved too small to venture to cheat the king with.
‘Alas! my poor little ape,’ said the princess, ‘thou hast lost thy life without doing me any service!’ — ‘That honour,’ interrupted the Moor, ‘is reserved for me;’ and instantly cut her throat with the knife which had taken out Grabugeon’s tongue. But here the intended service failed again, as the poor Moor’s tongue was too black to pass for Miranda’s. The princess bursting into bitter lamentation for the loss of the Moor and the ape, her little dog Tintin exclaimed, ‘If you had accepted of my offer, there would have been none to regret but myself, and real service had been done you.’ Miranda, however, was by this time so completely overpowered with grief, that she fainted away; and when she came to herself, she found the captain gone, and the little dog lying dead by the side of the ape and the Moor. Having buried her three favourites in a hole under a tree, she began to think of her own safety; and, as the forest was not far from her father’s court, she travelled, for fear of being discovered, till she was almost ready to expire with weariness. At last hearing the bleating of sheep, she supposed she drew near some shepherds with their flocks, and exerted all her strength to reach the place, in hopes of finding some relief. But how great was her surprise, when she came to a spacious plain, to see a large ram, as white as snow, with gilded horns, a garland of flowers about his neck, and his legs adorned with bracelets of pearl, of a prodigious size, lying on orange flowers, and shaded from the heat of the sun by a pavilion of cloth of gold! A hindred sheep, richly adorned, were in waiting upon him; some regaling themselves with the choicest herbage, while others diverted themselves with play. Miranda became motionless with astonishment, and looked about for the shepherd of so extraordinary a flock; when the beautiful Ram, bounding and skipping, came up and said, ‘Approach, lovely princess, and be not afraid of such gentle creatures as we are.’ — ‘What!’ exclaimed the princess, stepping back, ‘is it possible that sheep can speak?’ — ‘Alas! madam,’ resumed the Ram, ‘your ape and dog spoke by gift of a fairy, and why may not the same happen to sheep? Be not surprised, therefore; but tell me, what has brought you hither?’ — ‘A thousand misfortunes,’ answered Miranda; ‘I seek shelter from the rage of a cruel father.’ — ‘Come then with me, madam,’ rejoined the Ram, ‘and I will conduct you to a place where you shall be secure from discovery, and be absolute mistress.’ The Ram then ordered his chariot, which proved to be a gourd-shell, large enough to hold two persons with ease, and lined with velvet, which was drawn by six goats. The princess placed herself in it, admiring the novelty of such an equipage; and the Ram got in after her, and drove to a cavern’s mouth, which, though stopped by a large stone, opened on the Ram’s touching it with his foot.
Miranda having descended a very numerous flight of steps, was exceedingly surprised to behold a vast plain enamelled with flowers, in the midst of which were fountains of wine and other exquisite liquors, forming cascades and pleasant purling brooks. Here and there clumps of trees formed an habitation for a variety of choice birds and fowls; and in other parts the air was darkened with showers of biscuits, tarts, cheesecakes, and all manner of sweetmeats; in short, there was every necessary of life, besides great plenty of gold and silver coin, pearls, and diamonds. The princely Ram told Miranda that he had reigned here several years, and had sufficient cause for grief; but that he refrained, being unwilling to renew her misfortunes. To which the princess courteously replied, that she could not sufficiently express her acknowledgment of the kindness of his treatment; but, every thing seeming uncommonly strange to her, she should be glad to hear some particulars of his history. The gentle Ram, after endeavouring to remove every uneasiness that remained in the mind of Miranda, complied, and related as follows: — ‘Born and educated as a prince, I came into the possession of one of the most beautiful kingdoms in the world, and was beloved by my subjects and revered by foreigners. Being extremely fond of hunting, as I was one day pursuing a stag, he took to a pond, into which I very imprudently plunged my horse after him. Instead of finding the water cold, I found it extraordinarily hot; and the pond becoming dry all of a sudden, there issued out of a cliff a terrible fire, and I fell to the bottom from off a precipice, where I could see nothing but flames; at the same time I heard a voice exclaim: ‘They must be fiercer flames that can warm thy heart, ungrateful man!’ — ‘Alas!’ cried I, ‘who complains of my coldness?’ — ‘An unfortunate wretch,’ returned the voice, who adores you without hope.’ The fire then disappeared, and I saw a frightful fairy, whom I had known from my youth. ‘What!’ cried I, ‘Ragotte, was all this done by your orders?’ — ‘By whose orders else, do you think?’ said she: ‘have you never known my sentiments till now? Consider how low I stoop, and remember, it is a fairy who addresses you.’ — ‘But what do you ask?’ inquired I; ‘is it my crown, my cities, or my treasure?’ — ‘Neither,’ answered she, somewhat disdainfully; ‘but I ask your heart. Ah! grant me your affection, let me be your beloved Ragotte, and,’ added she, contracting her mouth to look the more agreeable, and rolling her eyes about, ‘I will give you twenty kingdoms beside your own, a hundred towers of gold, five hundred filled with silver, and every thing else you can possibly desire.’ In this dilemma I knew not how to act, but resolved to dissemble; and, pretending a regard for her, begged she would restore me to liberty, when I would endeavour to please her. But this gave her such offence, that she called me a traitor, and very angrily told me, I should stay and keep her sheep She after-wards brought me into this plain, and showed me her flock; but all my regard was taken up by a young slave of incomparable beauty, who was loaded with chains of gold. My eyes betrayed me; which the cruel Ragotte observing, flew upon the unfortunate female, and deprived her of life, by stabbing her in the eye with a bodkin. At this shocking sight, I clapped my hand upon my sword, and was going to make an instant sacrifice of Ragotte, when, by her wicked arts, she rendered me motionless, and with an ironical smile said: ‘I will make you feel my power: you are at present as a lion, but shall ere long become a sheep, and continue so for five years.’ Then, touching me with her wand, I became such as you now see me, retaining my speech; and she presently disappeared. The sheep she spoke of acknowledge me for their king, and I comfort them under their several misfortunes, which are in some respects like my own.’ Miranda was so forcibly struck with the remarkable history of the Ram, that she could not tell what reply to make: however, paying him some civilities, she congratulated him upon the prospect of soon recovering his former shape and liberty. Indeed the royal Ram, who was passionately in love with Miranda, had made such an impression upon her mind by his wit and delicacy, that she began to feel a tender regard for him, especially when she considered that he was a king who would soon be restored to his throne. Thus the princess passed many days in sweet anticipation of a more happy fate; while the Ram, who completely idolized her, made a variety of entertainments, and did every thing in his power to divert her. It is natural to suppose that the royal Ram was very fond of news, the best of which was constantly brought him by his courtiers. One evening they informed him that the eldest sister of the princess Miranda was going to marry a great prince, and that great preparations were making for the nuptials. Miranda was so vexed at the thought of not being present at so splendid an event, that she could not forbear dropping some expressions of regret, which so affected the royal Ram, that he cried out in great anxiety, ‘Madam, why do you complain? you shall have my consent to go to your sister’s wedding, if you will but promise me to come back again; yet I cannot endure to live without you.’ The princess faithfully gave her word that nothing should prevent her return; and accordingly she set off in a chariot of mother-of-pearl, drawn by six creatures that were half griffins, and attended by a very numerous train of officers. With this equipage Miranda arrived at her father’s court just as the marriage ceremony was beginning, when the lustre of her beauty and jewels surprised the whole assembly. She observed the king to look at her with particular attention, which made her fearful of his knowing and ordering her to be stopped; and therefore, remembering her promise to the Ram, who had so kindly treated her, she suddenly stole away before the ceremony was over, in order to repair to him. The king, being very desirous to know who she was, appeared quite disappointed when he found she was gone, and ordered his officers, the next time she came to court, to shut the doors and detain her. The royal Ram waited with the utmost impatience for the return of his beloved Miranda; and as soon as he saw her, he ran towards her, skipping and bounding, casting himself at her feet, and licking her hands: in short, he gave so many tokens of the most passionate fondness for her, that the princess was completely charmed with him.
It happened, some time afterwards, that the king married his second daughter, and Miranda begged leave to go again. This request touched the royal Ram to the heart, for he had a foreboding that she would never return: however, to show his unfeigned desire of doing every thing to please the princess, he said: My beloved lady! I consent to your going, though some secret feeling intimates to me that you will never return: but if you do not, you shall see your royal Rain expire at your feet, since he never can make you a greater sacrifice!’ Miranda assured him she would be as punctual in coming back as she had been before, and set off again for her father’s court with the same equipage. As soon as she entered, there was a general shout, and the king immediately gave orders to have the door shut. When the ceremony was over, the princess thought to have retired as before, but she found the doors closed; and the king coining up, entreated her to stay and honour his court with her presence. He then led her into a very fine hall, and held a golden basin full of water for her to wash her hands in. Miranda immediately threw herself at his feet, saying, ‘See, sire, my dream is fulfilled; — you hold a golden basin, and bid me come and wash at my second sister’s wedding.’ The king immediately recollected the features of Miranda, and, shedding tears, cried out, ‘O my dear daughter! forgive the cruelty of a father who would have deprived you of life, because he thought your dream denoted the loss of his crown; but it shall still be so: both your sisters have crowns, and mine shall be yours:’ and with that he put his crown on the princess’s head, exclaiming, ‘Long life and happiness to the Queen Miranda!’
Time now passed rapidly with the princess, whilst the royal Ram waited with the most anxious eagerness for her return, but in vain. At last, having lost all patience, he resolved to venture to the court, where he asked admittance to the princess Miranda, but was scornfully refused by the soldiers who kept the gates. Thus disappointed, his grief vented itself in deep sighs, and, lamenting his hard lot, he stretched himself upon the ground, and died, after stating, with his last breath, that Miranda’s cruelty had broken his heart. The next day it was proposed, after dinner, that the princess should ride in her chariot through all the streets of the city, in order to show herself to the people; but, alas! she had no sooner passed out of the gates, than she cast her eyes on the Ram, who had so lately expired for her sake. She was instantly seized with remorse for having neglected him, jumped from her chariot, kissed and bathed him with her tears; and, in short, was so overwhelmed with grief, that she fell into a succession of fainting-fits, and soon met with the same fate as her disconsolate lover.